Hiking

The ‘Changing’ Land of High Passes by Trivik Verma

Evolving landscape  Ladakh is a cold and dry desert in the upper Himalayas. In the recent past, locals have started planting vegetation close to their villages; emerging green patches of trees are sprouting all over the landscape, which in turn cause occasional rain. Photo: Tyler Wilkinson-Ray

Evolving landscape Ladakh is a cold and dry desert in the upper Himalayas. In the recent past, locals have started planting vegetation close to their villages; emerging green patches of trees are sprouting all over the landscape, which in turn cause occasional rain. Photo: Tyler Wilkinson-Ray

The highest and coldest desert in the world is set for change, both natural and manmade

“People will realize it in twenty years, what they had was so much better,” Tashi Tundup was gripped with emotion. The postmaster of Padum (Zanskar), a perennial remote region of the high Himalayas, explained how the seasons were changing, including farming patterns and river flows. “Roads will be built soon to connect this valley to the rest of Ladakh, when ‘culture, food, and language’, will be lost forever,” he said. Tashi is happy in his environment, a post-master by day and a homestay owner by night, he serves a handful of travelers every summer. Sub-zero winters are spent drinking Chhaang, a locally brewed Nepalese and Tibetan alcoholic beverage, and sitting through large village gatherings around fires with music and food.

The Military presence in Ladakh  Leh - the once known capital of Ladakh, is a military base that shares its airstrip for public use. In 1998, the Indian Army started a program called Op Sadhbhavana (goodwill) to return some peace to the community. Despite that, military areas occupy majority of inhabited land. Photo: Yogesh Kumar

The Military presence in Ladakh Leh - the once known capital of Ladakh, is a military base that shares its airstrip for public use. In 1998, the Indian Army started a program called Op Sadhbhavana (goodwill) to return some peace to the community. Despite that, military areas occupy majority of inhabited land. Photo: Yogesh Kumar

A peaceful home for refugees  After her parents fled from Tibet in 1970, Tashi Sinon was born in Leh. Ladakh is at the center of a war waged by three governments - India, China and Pakistan. Yet, things here are peaceful. Tashi reflects that emotion well; she is stylish, makes her own jewelery and speaks fluent English. Photo: Trivik Verma

A peaceful home for refugees After her parents fled from Tibet in 1970, Tashi Sinon was born in Leh. Ladakh is at the center of a war waged by three governments - India, China and Pakistan. Yet, things here are peaceful. Tashi reflects that emotion well; she is stylish, makes her own jewelery and speaks fluent English. Photo: Trivik Verma

The economy is based on experiential travel  Tourism in Leh and neighboring regions is on the rise. Locals of this region run adventurous activities as a means to support their livelihood. Every shop in the main city of Leh offers a tour or package. “Best adventure company..” they all advertise. Photo: Trivik Verma

The economy is based on experiential travel Tourism in Leh and neighboring regions is on the rise. Locals of this region run adventurous activities as a means to support their livelihood. Every shop in the main city of Leh offers a tour or package. “Best adventure company..” they all advertise. Photo: Trivik Verma

Receding glaciers of the high Himalayas  "This glacier used to come up to the road connecting Kargil to Zanskar," Stanzin Chotchan recalled, during an interview in the quest of finding the last Mail Runners of India. Chotchan runs an expedition company in Leh. Once the glaciers dry up, the only source of water in Ladakh will disappear. Photo: Tyler Wilkinson-Ray

Receding glaciers of the high Himalayas "This glacier used to come up to the road connecting Kargil to Zanskar," Stanzin Chotchan recalled, during an interview in the quest of finding the last Mail Runners of India. Chotchan runs an expedition company in Leh. Once the glaciers dry up, the only source of water in Ladakh will disappear. Photo: Tyler Wilkinson-Ray

Greenery in patches  Purne (Zanskar district) is a three-house village situated at the confluence of two rivers - Tsarap and Kargyak. For the lack of roads, people here run up to the neighbouring Chah village for daily work. For them, the altitude and steep terrain don’t matter. Athleticism is built in their livelihood. Photo: Yogesh Kumar

Greenery in patches Purne (Zanskar district) is a three-house village situated at the confluence of two rivers - Tsarap and Kargyak. For the lack of roads, people here run up to the neighbouring Chah village for daily work. For them, the altitude and steep terrain don’t matter. Athleticism is built in their livelihood. Photo: Yogesh Kumar

Remote villages of Zanskar  Chah is almost a day’s hike from Ichar, end of the road from Padum. Roads are planned for this region and in a few years life here will change drastically. The region’s 23-year-old postmaster is not too happy about it. “Nobody will care anymore,” he sadly thinks out loud. Photo: Trivik Verma

Remote villages of Zanskar Chah is almost a day’s hike from Ichar, end of the road from Padum. Roads are planned for this region and in a few years life here will change drastically. The region’s 23-year-old postmaster is not too happy about it. “Nobody will care anymore,” he sadly thinks out loud. Photo: Trivik Verma

A young resident of Chah Village, Zanskar Valley  Chah has a population of merely 500. Adults have to go to Padum or Leh for Jobs. There is a school for basic education in the village but some children go up to Manali for education. There are Homestays among these brick-walled houses and tourists are a common sight throughout summer. Photo: Yogesh Kumar

A young resident of Chah Village, Zanskar Valley Chah has a population of merely 500. Adults have to go to Padum or Leh for Jobs. There is a school for basic education in the village but some children go up to Manali for education. There are Homestays among these brick-walled houses and tourists are a common sight throughout summer. Photo: Yogesh Kumar

The treacherous valleys of Zanskar  The rivers here are frozen in the winters. They are coined the term Chadar (sheet), symbolising a blanket of ice, on which villagers walk to the closest motorable towns for ration. Mules and horses are used to transport their things. Summers here are not any easier. Photo: Trivik Verma

The treacherous valleys of Zanskar The rivers here are frozen in the winters. They are coined the term Chadar (sheet), symbolising a blanket of ice, on which villagers walk to the closest motorable towns for ration. Mules and horses are used to transport their things. Summers here are not any easier. Photo: Trivik Verma

Phugtal Gompa in the Lungnak valley in Zanskar  The Lungnak valley is the most remote region of Ladakh, including the Phugtal Gompa (monastery), which is the only monastery that is truly isolated and requires a long trek through difficult terrain. Photo: Trivik Verma

Phugtal Gompa in the Lungnak valley in Zanskar The Lungnak valley is the most remote region of Ladakh, including the Phugtal Gompa (monastery), which is the only monastery that is truly isolated and requires a long trek through difficult terrain. Photo: Trivik Verma

No phones, no rescue. A place for adventure?  Hiking, Mountaineering and Skiing are some of the sports that draw tourists from around the world. Locals living in such inhospitable conditions are organically more agile. For them, traveling the world for sport doesn’t make much sense, but adventure tourism is part of their livelihood. Photo: Yogesh Kumar

No phones, no rescue. A place for adventure? Hiking, Mountaineering and Skiing are some of the sports that draw tourists from around the world. Locals living in such inhospitable conditions are organically more agile. For them, traveling the world for sport doesn’t make much sense, but adventure tourism is part of their livelihood. Photo: Yogesh Kumar

(As published @ RedBull)

Kameng - the Mishmi Takin hiking boot by Trivik Verma

Mishmi Takin, an outdoor brand coming out of the US that designs high-performance boots & jackets, could be the next big thing for all your adventures. Their Kickstarter campaign is now live and The Outdoor Journal received an early pair to review.

Industry graded hiking shoes keep you dry, but not in all climatic conditions. Most “waterproof” boots follow the standards of something called a  ‘Wet System’ made from a Polyurethane (PU) membrane. In simple words, for your feet to remain dry, the humidity inside the shoe must increase before you actually start sweating.

Mishmi Takin product shoot in Troutdale, OR. Photo by: Trevor Brown, Jr./Trevor Brown Photograph

Mishmi Takin product shoot in Troutdale, OR. Photo by: Trevor Brown, Jr./Trevor Brown Photograph

Mishmi Takin - an endangered species of the goat-antelope family that resides in the Indian, Myanmar and southern Chinese Himalayas - lent its name to a new brand that produces highly breathable and water repelling gear. The founder, Kapil Dev Singh, does things differently. “Our #1 difference is the use of DRY-SYSTEM membranes and fabrics that are microporous and air permeable, resulting in immediate expulsion of water vapor, some air exchange and a big difference in user comfort,” Singh said during his Kickstarter campaign launch.

The eVent membrane technology, that Mishmi Takin has tied up with, is based on millions of micropores that disperse any buildup of vapour within seconds in lieu of a slow 4-step (condensation, absorption, diffusion, evaporation) process that is present in most hiking boots designed for protection in rain. The membrane technology is also waterproof so the shoe works in a wide range of conditions. After hours of hiking through a wet, muddy and slushy forest area in the Alps, I didn’t feel the need to change to another pair of socks.

The Kameng also features a VIBRAM® Megagrip sole (Mishmi Takin has also partnered with VIBRAM) that allows for a great grip on wet and slippery surfaces. I used it for scrambling up rocks in the equatorial heat of central India. The upper Cordura fabric was easy to clean. The Rocker Sole was perhaps a surprise and reminiscent of the industry leader Dachstein’s Super Leggera DDS.

Walking through a forest after an accidental splash in a muddy pool. Zero water permeated inside the shoe.

Walking through a forest after an accidental splash in a muddy pool. Zero water permeated inside the shoe.

Breathability and Waterproofing

Excessive hours of walking through forests in cold and wet conditions didn’t make me want to change to another pair. I found that the shoe doesn’t even emanate any foul odour that I often associate with my other hiking boots, no matter the conditions.

I have used the shoe in the warm temperate climate of India, while hiking in the Alps in Switzerland, the Black Forest region of Germany and for casual day to day activities during countless rainy days in Switzerland. The shoe has kept my feet dry and free of sweat. Of course it does get cold in there in subzero temperatures but that’s not what the shoe is for. 

Weight and Size

I wear a European 42 and most shoes go either way, 41 or 43. This one was a snug fit, and I almost never realized a heavy weight on my feet. At 630 grams, it comes very close to the Super Leggera DDS from Dachstein which is only 560 grams and poses a fair competition.

My absolute favorite thing about the shoe is its rocker sole feeling on steep terrain and the fact that I never feel its weight on slopes while pulling up a heavy pack.

Mishmi Takin’s Kameng series of hiking boots is in line with Singh’s experience in the tropical outdoors and his world class engineering (IIT, India) and management (MIT, USA) education. It has the right amount of aesthetics that bring together a wide-range of necessary features normally found in separate pairs of shoes, almost never together, and keeps you dry across many temperate climates while performing the same in colder regions. The Mishmi Takin species has great feet traction for climbing up and down steep terrain in the Eastern Himalayas and also has an oily outer skin layer that allows for rain to slide off easily. Their evolutionary advantage is what made Singh borrow the name.

Price: $125 - $230
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(As published @ The Outdoor Journal)